About sarie

Sarie grew up on a tiny sliver of land and sandy prairie called French Island near La Crosse, WI between the Mississippi and Black Rivers. She spent many happy times exploring the sandy prairies surrounding her neighborhood woods amongst the Birdsfoot and Woodland Violets, picking them for Mom (they never did last longer than a few hours… and learned it was a no-no to pick them..) A vocal musician by education (Soprano, singing with the Festival Choir of Madison for 25 years), she found her way to the Westfield area by marrying a music teacher/organic gardener husband with 50 acres of oak savannah in which to roam. The incredible diversity of wildflowers in her own back yard amazed her, including many species growing in the pure beach sand such as Butterflyweed, Rough Blazingstar, Roundhead Bushclover and many others. After a trip to Prairie Nursery, Sarie magically found herself learning at the feet of prairie guru Neil Diboll, (not exactly feet, but across the hall at least). In the almost 12 years at Prairie Nursery, Sarie enjoys speaking with her customers and finds she learns something new each day sharing the benefits of establishing prairie landscapes.

Late Summer Musings

This is the view of my back yard in northern Marquette County,WI.  Our property is 50 acres, and was last farmed in 1979, and has been allowed to go fallow.  We have many great native plants that have returned to this old field, and last week the field erupted in blooms of Flowering Spurge-Euphorbia corollata.  We look forward to this annual explosion of bloom, and it is not to be missed!  The blooms came a few weeks ahead of schedule, due to our early spring.   Flowering Spurge grows on our dry sandy soils in great clouds of lacy white flowers, covering miles upon miles of roadsides and open land.

Sarie's field of Flowering spurge-Euphorbia corollata

To the east, across the farm truck path is a field of Canada Goldenrod-Solidago canadensis is starting to bloom…like the spurge, at least several weeks ahead of schedule.  On the east side of the field the soil quality is better-if sand can be better-organically speaking-and the soil moisture is better, so the Canada Goldenrod has found its place.  We have resolved to leave this typically not welcome-native plant to its spreading ways, as this area of our farm is close to 20 acres, and it is not in the budget to convert to prairie.  Someday we will tackle this area, hopefully! Usually the Flowering Spurge blooms in mid to late July and Canada Goldenrod blooms in mid to late August.  I felt I should take a photo of this unusual occurrence of Flowering Spurge and Canada Goldenrod blooming simultaneously. (We do not offer seed/plants of Flowering Spurge at this time, sorry!).

Flowering Spurge and Canada Goldenrod

Other Blooming Highlights for the summer of 2012:

Brown Eyed Susan-Rudbeckia triloba is blooming-at least three weeks ahead of schedule.  The foliage is about 8-12 inches shorter this year due to the drought.

Big Bluestem-Andropogon gerardii and Switchgrass-Panicum virgatum is flowering now…crazy early, about a month earlier than usual.  The birds are already testing the Switchgrass to see if the seed is ready to eat.

Wild Petunia-Ruellia humilis has been presenting its beautiful little blooms all summer long.  Hummingbirds love it, and I LOVE this little plant, its amazing taproot makes it impervious to drought!  I am planting more Petunia seedlings that have migrated into the lawn nearby into my gardens.

Wild Petunia-Ruellia humilis

Little Bluestem-Schizachyrium scoparium has decided to go dormant in one of my gardens…a south facing hillside.  This site is so hot and just too dry, so it turned its brilliant late summer/fall color of greenish grey with red tinges.  After the first hard freeze it will turn a crimson red!

Lanceleaf Coreopsis-Coreopsis lanceolata has been blooming all summer long.  I nip off the spent blooms (leaving some flowers to go to seed-Finches love it), and it re-blooms nicely.

Today my Dense Blazingstars-Liatris spicata began to bloom; hopefully their blooms will attract a Monarch or two.  We have observed very few butterflies in our area this summer.  No doubt due to the drought.  I have not seen a single Monarch caterpillar in my gardens…..last year I counted dozens on just one Red Milkweed-Asclepias incarnata plant.  Let’s hope next summer we’ll be back to “normal” and the Butterflies return in larger numbers.

Monarch Butterfly visiting Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa

The Black Walnut trees in our yard are turning their fall yellow color.  Due to the drought, we have been watering many of our trees this summer, but I believe the Black Walnuts and many other trees that have been stressed through lack of rainfall, and fall colors will be arriving early this year.  The trees have produced just a few walnuts for the grey and red squirrels in our backyard.

We received almost an inch of rain last Saturday!  Wow, it was an all morning into afternoon light drizzle/rain with a crack or two of thunder and lightning!  My Smooth Aster-Aster laevis and Sky Blue Aster-Aster azureus grew an inch or so in one day…very cool!  I suppose now the asters will be blooming next week….  The plants seemed to collectively sigh as if saying, ahh, that’s better, thanks so very much for the rain!

I’ll end with a sight not often seen, my Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa re-blooming in August!   Butterflyweed, thanks to its deep taproot is completely and utterly drought tolerant and happily about its business, and I saw a Monarch on the blooms yesterday, nice!

Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa

Enjoy your time in the garden and the late summer blooms!  Soon enough we’ll be raking fall leaves and shoveling snow, and after this hot, hot summer, I think for our plants and for many of us, the arrival of rain, snow and cold might be welcome for a change!

Plant Survival in harsh drought conditions

Well, its official, the weather service has announced that the majority of Southern Wisconsin, where Prairie Nursery is located, is in moderate drought conditions.  Many communities postponed fireworks for the 4th of July and a nearly statewide burning ban is in effect.  Although wildfires are devastating the dry western states; fortunately there have been no major fires in our state as yet.  We have not had any significant rainfall in over a month in some places in the south.

As I look out my office window onto a field of Rough Blazingstar-Liatris aspera, there is little evidence that these hearty drought tolerant species are affected by the drought.  Their stems are firm and needle-like leaves are perfectly adapted to sunny, hot desert-like/sandy conditions in which they are situated.  Native plants are amongst the most highly adapted and drought tolerant.

Butterflyweed & Prairie Dropseed

In my prairie gardens at home, the Lanceleaf Coreopsis-Coreopsis lanceolataButterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosaWild Petunia-Ruellia humilis and Pale Purple Coneflower-Echinacea pallida are blooming profusely seemingly unaffected by the drought in my sandy back yard.  Grasses including Little Bluestem-Schizachyrium scopariumPrairie Dropseed-Sporobolus heterolepisBig Bluestem-Andropogon gerardi and Indiangrass-Sorghastrum nutans look good, and hanging in there, as their 3-5 foot deep roots are able to find water in the soil well below the surface.

Hoary Vervain-Verbena stricta

In my previous posting I discussed the importance of choosing plants for your soil condition on your site.  Selecting adaptable plants matching the soil in your yard is the first step to easy gardening.  The second most important step is to choose plants for their moisture tolerance.  We note this in all our plant descriptions in our catalog and website.

A plant such as Queen of the Prairie-Filipendula rubra or Marsh Phlox-Phlox glaberrima will be quite unhappy in my desert of a backyard, so although I love their colorful blooms I would choose Hoary Vervain-Verbena stricta and Downy Phlox-Phlox pilosa for their drought tolerance.

Downy Phlox-Phlox pilosa

The dire drought situation for many of us illustrates the importance of choosing plants that are adaptable to our soils.  In my own prairie gardens we have spent the last month or so removing plants that are not adaptable to my sandy soil, such as Ox Eye Sunflower-Helianthus helianthoides and Culver’s Root-Veronicastrum virginicum, and are replacing them with drought tolerant survivors.  I know this decision will make my prairie truly representative of the plants that have historically inhabited the dry prairies of our continent.

Plants for all seasons, Plants for Everyone!

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a perfect world? Comfortable no matter what the temperature in summer, content in whatever situation life threw at us? Calm and collected even under duress or stress? Do we have your attention? Yes!

There is a select group of native perennials that can grow in just about any well drained soil condition, sand, loam or clay. These hardy and adaptable natives do not need expensive topsoil, soil amendments and fertilizer to thrive in our gardens; they are content to live in the native soil in which they are planted.

If the goal is to create an easy care, low maintenance landscape we can achieve it by choosing plants from this group of perennials.

Imagine early blooming perennials Smooth Penstemon, Lanceleaf Coreopsis and Blue False Indigo. Lanceleaf Coreopsis will bloom all summer long if we dead-head the spent blooms!

Blue False Indigo

Our mid summer gardens are dotted with pollinator and butterfly favorites including Purple Coneflower, Red Milkweed, Brown Eyed Susan and Culver’s Root.

Monarchs and Swallowtails will flock to Butterflyweed, Dense Blazingstar, Prairie Blazingstar and Yellow Coneflower. Late summer blooms can be achieved using Sweet Black Eyed Susan, Ironweed and Stiff Goldenrod.

Black Eyed Susan with Butterflyweed

Last but not least, don’t forget the grasses. Little Bluestem or Prairie Dropseed will never need a drop of water even in the hottest weather! Grasses scattered throughout our gardens help support the wildflowers and crowd out weeds with their deep roots.


Prairie Dropseed

What more can we ask of our humble North American native wildflowers?  We ask for beautiful lush blooms, we have them, we ask for easy gardening with little effort. No problem!  Plants that crowd out weeds and save water resources? Yes, this is our kind of gardening!  Now, where is that tall glass of iced tea and my chaise lounge? Yes, there, all better…Ahhh!

Wildflowers & Grasses for all Soil types:
Sand, Loam or Clay in full sun, with medium soil moisture

Allium cernuum – Nodding Pink Onion
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterflyweed
Aster Novae-angliae – NewEnglandAster
Baptisia australis – Blue False Indigo
Coreopsis lanceolata – Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Dalea purpurea-Purple Prairie Clover
Echinacea paradoxa – Ozark Coneflower
Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower
Eryngium yuccifolium – Rattlesnake Master
Helianthus helianthoides – Ox Eye Sunflower
Liatris pycnostachya – Prairie Blazingstar
Liatris spicata – Dense Blazingstar
Monarda fistulosa – Bergamot
Penstemon digitalis – Smooth Penstemon
Penstemon smallii – Small’s Penstemon
Parthenium integrifolium – Wild Quinine
Rudbeckia subtomentosa – Sweet Black Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta – Black Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia triloba – Brown Eyed Susan
Silphium laciniatum – Compassplant
Silphium terebinthinaceum – Prairie Dock
Silphium perfoliatum – Cupplant
Ratibida pinnata – Yellow Coneflower
Solidago rigida – Stiff Goldenrod
Solidago ohioensis – Ohio Goldenrod
Tradescantia bracteata – Prairie Spiderwort
Vernonia fasciculata – Ironweed
Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s Root

Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem
Sporobolus heterolepis – Prairie Dropseed


Wild Quinine in front of Purple Coneflower